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Professionals can help avoid common estate planning mistakes

One of the most inexplicable mysteries tied to estate planning is the fact that so many people either put it off or don't do it at all. Their entire fortunes -- everything they worked for during their lives -- is on the line, but for some reason, men and women do not always take the right steps, or the steps at all, to preserve it.

For those that choose to tackle this sometimes-complicated manner, one slip up could cost a lot. This is why turning to the Internet or other methods of do-it-yourself estate planning can be a bad idea.

As the evolution of technology continues to crawl along, more and more people are confident they can secure their estate plans using online resources rather than an estate planning professional.

While these websites can certainly offer a man or woman the appropriate documentation, they lack the advice that an estate planning attorney can offer. Everyone's situation is different and requires different estate planning methods. Estate planning websites just offer one cookie-cutter method and provide the documents to aid in the process.

Whether planning an estate with, or without, an attorney, people make a common batch of mistakes. One major mistake comes when a man or woman does not regularly review beneficiary designations or titling assets on a regular basis. These are tied to things like 401(k)s, IRAs and company plans. The beneficiaries listed on these assets will inherit them no matter what a living will says. That is why it is important to make sure the appropriate beneficiaries are tied in with them.

Having a plan in place is important. If a man or woman passes away without any documentation to direct their assets, they will be handled by the state. All assets will be dictated by that state's inheritance laws. There is a slight possibility that the assets will transfer to the right hands, but there is no valid reason for leaving it to chance.

Source: Forbes, "7 major errors in estate planning," Rob Clarfeld, April 25, 2012

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